Life Hack: Using an electric kettle as an instant noodle-maker

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RocketNews 24 (by Casey Baseel):

Cooking udon, or any other kind of fresh pasta, just got a whole lot easier.

Excluding the pot of leftover curry and can of Ebisu sitting in my fridge, I think my T-fal electric kettle might be the most wonderful thing in my kitchen. All I have to do is fill it from the tap, flip the switch, and in seconds I’ve got a pot of boiling water with which to make tea, coffee, or hot chocolate.

It also comes in handy if I’m craving noodles, since the spout makes it easy to pour into cup ramen. But it turns out an electric kettle can be useful even for making noodles of the non-instant variety, as shown by Japanese Twitter user @aya_royal_1025.

@aya_royal_1025 hails from Kagawa, which is so famous for udon noodles that it’s jokingly called “Udon Prefecture.” As a staple food of the region, Kagawa’s residents of course spend a lot of time every year cooking udon, which would ordinarily entail boiling a pot of water, tossing in the noodles, then stirring them as they cook.

At some point, though, @aya_royal_1025 came up with a quicker way of getting things done: just toss the uncooked noodles into the kettle along with the necessary amount of water and flash cook them with the press of a button.

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Despite the unorthodox cooking method, @aya_royal_1025 says the resulting noodles aren’t soggy or mushy, an also promises that they taste just as good as udon made in the traditional manner.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. For starters, @aya_royal_1025 doesn’t mention one way or another whether using the kettle for a purpose it clearly wasn’t originally designed for has any effect on its longevity. Also, since you’re now using the kettle to cook instead of just boil water, you’ll want to wash the apparatus out when you’re done, so that no udon residue sticks to its inside (just like you would after making noodles in a regular pot). Finally, a normal-sized kettle is only going to have room to make a single-person-sized portion.

But if you’re in the mood for some actual udon (or any other kind of noodle) even though you’re strapped for time, this sounds like an amazingly convenient way to speed things up in the kitchen.

Korean-American celebrity chef David Chang bans tipping at his new Momofuku Nishi restaurant

Tucked away in NYC’s vibrant Chelsea district lies Momofuku Nishi, the newest restaurant by celebrity chef David Chang which opened its doors for the first time last week. With locations already in Toronto (Momofuku Daisho), Washington, D.C. (Momofuku CCDC), and Sydney (Momofuku Seiobo) in addition to its Noodle Bar headquarters in NYC, Nishi is the first full-service, original Momofuku restaurant to open in the past five years.

What else is new for Momofuku? Plenty. With his latest venture Chef Chang takes it back to his Korean roots with an Italian and Korean cuisine-inspired menu infused with classic Cantonese barbecue and of course, dishes inspired by his mother and grandmother.

Nishi is what Noodle Bar would be if I opened it up as a 38-year-old, not a 26-year-old. We know how to play all our instruments now. The skill level here is higher,” Chang told Lucky Peach in a recent interview.

Chang had a few words to share about his menu’s price points:

“I’m done with people telling me that I can’t charge what I want to charge for things. The only difference between these dishes is price point and regionality. It pisses me off that Asian food has to be cheaper. Why? Not one person has given me a reason why. All the ingredients that we’re getting are top quality, and just as expensive as any other restaurant. Look at the version of cacio e pepe we’re serving here. The only expensive ingredient we’re not using is parmesan—and guess what parmesan is? MSG. We’re replacing the parmesan with our own fermented chickpea paste that took us six to nine months to make. So fuck you guys. I’m not getting on the phone and ordering a wheel of parmesan. Don’t tell me that I can’t charge like Italian food.”

His stance for a no-tip system stems from the restaurant’s success at their Sydney location:

“We have a restaurant in Australia where tipping is not like it is here. I got to see just how much our cooks and servers make. It’s a considerable amount, and there is greater parity between the front and back of house. I don’t know if anyone has a restaurant in Australia who can say that, but we can. It is crazy how much money a cook can make relative to NYC—still not enough, but a lot. It was an idea that we want to try. Bottom line is we want to pay sous chefs, cooks, and dishwashers a living wage. People say, ‘Why don’t you just charge more money?’ They’re idiots. Margins are slim to none. Restaurants are not a very profitable business. This is an opportunity to pay our cooks more… We want to be able to grow as a company so we can provide for more people. This is a way we might be able to do that. And if it doesn’t work, we can always go back to the old way.”

Nishi’s menu has not been released yet, but the eatery is now open five days a week, from Tuesday to Saturday.

Momofuku Nishi
232 8th Ave. (between 21st and 22nd streets)
New York, NY 10011

New Philippine mail order site makes Japanese items available at the click of a button

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RocketNews 24 (by Jamie Koide):

Philippine residents can now get their hands on a plethora of Japanese items at TOKYO STYLE.

Although a rising number of Japanese food, media, and accessory retailers online are beginning to go international, it still stands that the majority of the products produced within Japan are for domestic sale only, despite the increasing demand for these items overseas.

Especially in the Philippines, Japanese products are often praised for their high quality, and are favored by a growing number of young consumers. Started by offshore developer Glocalizer and goods distributer and remittance service Transtech, TOKYO STYLE is a new website that aims to cater to this demographic through their easy shopping set-up, as well as further strengthen the relationship between the Philippines and Japan.

The site offers Filipino residents the ability to make group orders off Rakuten and other sites using the website’s order form. A domestic buyer than purchases the items for them and ships them to each customer’s address though Transtech’s Balikbayan Box cargo service.

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Popular items include Cup Noodle and other instant or pre-packaged Japanese foods and snacks, as well as diapers and other daily goods that are also popular with Chinese tourists and other Asian visitors.

10 things that might surprise you when you visit Japan

RocketNews 24:

When traveling to a foreign country for the first time, no matter how well-prepared you are, there’s sure to be a lot you’ll be surprised by! Let’s take a look at 10 things in Japan that might surprise you when you first hop off the plane.

With these in mind, you can enjoy your first trip to Japan even more!

1. Slurping Food:

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You’ve just arrived in Japan for the first time, and you can’t wait to enjoy your first authentic bowl of Japanese ramen. The salaryman at the counter next to you receives his order before you and goes to town—and he’s not quiet about it. Try not to lose your appetite—slurping noodles like ramen, soba and udon is totally okay in Japan! In fact, it shows you’re enjoying your meal and if you’re an expert noodle-slurper, it’s actually easier than trying to sip your soba delicately.

2. Toilets

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While standard Western toilets are the most common in Japan, you occasionally play a risky roulette game when you open the bathroom door. Will you be treated to the luxurious-if-not-slightly-intimidating heated washlet toilet? Or will you have to suffer the trials of the traditional floor-level “washiki?”

If you chose Door #1, you may get to enjoy a heated seat, simulated flushing sound for privacy, and of course, the bidet with various heat/water pressure/location options. If you chose Door #2, make sure your phone and valuables are out of your pockets, carefully gather up loose clothing, and try not to fall in. Some public bathrooms have both western and washiki options, so check the door for the in-ground toilet symbol! If people are waiting behind you, offer them a “douzo!” (go ahead) and a wave of your hand towards the toilet hell you’re hoping to avoid entering.

3. Sento and Onsen

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If you really want to immerse yourself in Japanese culture, you’ve got to be ready to immerse yourself in “onsen” (hot springs). Or, for the more budget-conscious traveler, “sento” (public bath houses). The idea of stripping down and taking a bath with a bunch of strangers can be pretty intimidating, but the tradition has existed in Japan for hundreds of years so try to remind yourself that everyone else is used to it!

Read up a bit on bath house etiquette (wash first, take a dip, wash again!) and enjoy the relaxation! Tattoos are often frowned upon in Japan due to their association with the yakuza, and many onsen and sento actually prohibit entering if you have them (though if they’re small enough to be covered by a bandage, you should be alright.) If you’re shy or tattooed but you still want to enjoy the hot springs experience, some onsen resorts offer “kashikiri” (private) baths for you and your travel partners!

4. Trash cans and sorting

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Japan is a country of convenience. Drinks machines on every corner, convenience stores every five minutes… but with all these grab-and-go drinks and snacks, what are you supposed to do with your trash?! Tokyo’s trash cans largely disappeared as a safety measure after a domestic terror attack in the ’90s but don’t show any signs of coming back soon, so you have to know where to look. Some convenience stores have trash cans outside, or tucked away inside if the store has a mini in-store cafe. JR stations sometimes have trash cans on the platforms, and you can sometimes find trash cans just inside or outside of subway station turnstiles. If you really can’t find anywhere to stash your trash, be prepared to carry it with you for a while! And remember, Japan is very careful about sorting its trash. Here are the most common categories:

– もえるゴミ / moeru gomi – burnable trash (paper, food waste, sometimes non-recyclable plastic)
– もえないゴミ / moenai gomi – non-burnable trash (light bulbs, batteries, broken glass)
– びん / bin – glass bottles, カン/ kan – aluminum cans (these two often get thrown away together)
– ペットボトル / petto botoru – plastic bottles

5. Unattended items

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When you’re scoping out somewhere to sit at a café or restaurant, you might be shocked to see someone’s bag or iPhone left unattended at their table. Japan is an extremely safe country with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, and a system that rewards honesty and casts stigma on bad behavior is to thank. For the same reasons, you may see many young children riding trains to and from school safely by themselves, and some Japanese men with long-style wallets protruding from their back pockets. Would that fly in your country?

6. Fruit prices

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If your first trip to Tokyo involves a whole lot of high-class convenience store dining, you might find yourself craving some fruit after a couple of days as conbini don’t typically have much to offer. The basement floor of many department stores include somewhat high-end supermarkets, where you can find a famed gem of Weird Japan— super expensive fruit. It’s not uncommon to see beautiful pieces of fruit going for upwards of 10,000 yen or 20,000 yen (~$100 or $200 USD) but these aren’t melons you bring home and toss in a fruit salad. It’s common for these luxury fruits to be given as gifts during business transactions, weddings or hospital visits. If those are a bit out of your price range, check out the fruit stand just around the left corner of ALTA outside Shinjuku station’s east exit for 100 yen or 200 yen sticks of delicious fresh fruit!

7. Food portions

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Here’s some culture shock that works both ways: when Japanese people visit other countries, they’re often shocked by how huge the drink and food portions are. When visiting from outside Japan, you might be surprised by how small your lunch is. After a long day wandering the city, don’t expect a big glass of water when you sit down for a meal—but feel free to ask for “okawari” (refill) or try somewhere with a “drink bar” option—free refills of whatever kind of drinks you want for a minimal fixed price. Most Japanese restaurants don’t have “to go” options for leftovers, and instead serve just enough for one meal’s portion. Of course, everyone’s appetite is different, so if you’ve come hungry, try ordering your rice or noodle dish “ohmori” (big serving.)

8. Finding places to sit

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Travel is tiring! Sometimes you just want to find somewhere to rest your feet for a few minutes—but in Japan, Tokyo especially, this is easier said than done. There are very few public benches and places to sit outside, and sitting down on the ground may earn you several side-eye stares. Even train station platforms have only a few seats for weary travelers and commuters. If you really need a break and can’t find a public park, you may have to pay up for a drink in a café or McDonald’s, but you can stay as long as you’d like. Or, if you’re in Tokyo, you can always hop on the Yamanote loop line and be back where you started after one hour!

9. Queuing culture

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In a densely packed city such as Tokyo, lining up in an organized way exceeds necessity and has become almost an art form. Lining up for the train, lining up for the escalator, lining up for a restaurant, lining up for an hour to buy specialty popcorn—be ready to do some waiting, and absolutely no cutting in line!! If you really hate waiting in lines, they can be reduced or avoided by considering the time of day and day of the week you’re trying to go somewhere or do something. Plan around weekends and rush hour!

10. Lost items

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One of the scariest possible travel mishaps is losing something in a foreign country. But good news! If you lose something in Japan, the odds are pretty good that it will be returned to you. Items such as wallets, umbrellas, and more that get lost on trains can be recovered by talking to station staff, though sometimes you may need to go to the last station on that train line to access their lost and found.

If you lose something elsewhere, try finding the nearest “koban” (police box) and explaining what you lost, where, and when. If you forget something in your hotel room, the hotel staff will almost always be able to get it back to you, even if you’ve already gone home!

To begin explaining your situation, try using the phrase: “wasuremono wo shimashita” (I lost/forgot something) and go from there.

Easy-Bake Oven meets its match with the Easy-Make Ramen maker!

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RocketNews 24 (by KK Miller):

A gift that has always been popular is the Easy-Bake Oven, which is one of the coolest presents ever and a great way to get young ones interested in the joy of cooking.

Baking isn’t an especially big pastime in Japan since very few households have a proper oven, but this product from Mega House is the perfect way to get kids interested and involved with cooking. It probably won’t be just kids clamoring for this kitchen aid either; adults are certainly going to want this as well because it teaches us a skill every grownup gourmand will appreciate: how to make homemade ramen noodles!

Officially called the O-Uchi de Ramenya (“Ramen Restaurant in your Home”), this Easy-Make Ramen toy is perfect for those who don’t feel too confident in their kitchen skills. For many of us, the thought of making our own ramen is daunting, but with this kit everything from the assembly to literally cranking out the noodles is really simple!

▼ The noodle cutter, tray and main part

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ramen 6The kit comes with three types of cutters to give your homemade noodles various sizes of thickness. There is also a way to turn your very straight noodles into curly noodles. Additionally, if you’re craving some wonton or gyoza to go with your ramen, you can make the skins for those as well.

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For those who are worried about special ingredients that might be required by this “machine”, you don’t have to fret; it’s already stuff you should have in your kitchen. A video from Mega House details the exact ingredients and provides a step-by-step guide to making delicious ramen noodles.

▼ Hard flour/bread flour (300 grams), soft flour/pastry flour (100 grams), water (about 190 grams), salt (8 grams), eggs (2). Using all-purpose flour (400 grams) would definitely work as well.

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You can buy one of these handy toys online from Amazon for $49.25 to enjoy in your own home with your family. Though this may be marketed as a kids’ toy, we think it’s a product that’ll really get adults excited too.

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Nissin’s Japanese instant foods get a Halloween makeover in four limited-edition products

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RocketNews 24:

With Halloween becoming an increasingly recognized event in Japan, we’re sure to be seeing plenty of products featuring pumpkins, black cats, ghosts and witches in shops across Japan as we enter the month of October. And the instant food market is no exception to the trend, as Nissin Foods, known around the world for their Cup Noodles, come out this month with four unique Halloween-themed instant food products.

That’s right, you can be sure to get a taste of Halloween this year, even if you have no time to cook!

Supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan may feel just a little bit “darker” than usual, as four Halloween items in distinct black packages come on sale from Nissin starting October 5. You’ll be able to choose from cup noodles, risotto, udon noodles and yakisoba noodles, and the packaging even comes illustrated with cute original Nissin characters like “Pumpkin Mask”, “Gourmet Witch” and “Count Dracula”.

Let’s take a look at the line-up of Nissin’s instant Halloween foods:

▼ Here’s the “Cup Noodle Pumpkin Potage Flavor.” The instant noodles we’re all familiar with have been combined with a soup containing the sweetness of pumpkin and the rich flavor of cheese. The ingredients used include pumpkin, cheddar cheese, carrots and cabbage.
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▼ And this is the “Cup Noodle Risotto Pumpkin Potage Flavor.” If you’re not in the mood for noodles, this item contains rice instead of noodles in the same pumpkin-and-cheese soup.Untitled 2

The other two items don’t exactly use Halloween related ingredients, but they’ve been created with a black color theme to get you into the Halloween spirit.

▼This “Donbei Black Curry Udon” features the usual thick Donbei udon noodles known for their chewy texture, along with a rich, dark pork-based curry flavored soup containing dried minced meat, potatoes, carrots and negi leeks.

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▼ The “Nissin Yakisoba U.F.O. Squid Ink Flavor” is a variation of the popular U.F.O. Yakisoba fried noodles in a black squid ink (Ikasumi) flavor with some anchovy flavoring and red pepper added to give the taste a little spice and depth.

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So, was there an item that caught your fancy in particular? We think the pumpkin potage soup certainly sounds tasty. (But then again, many Japanese people have a soft spot for anything pumpkin, chestnut or sweet potato flavored, especially during autumn.)

Well, whichever one might appeal to you the most, one thing that’s certain is that you’ll be able to (kind of) get into the Halloween spirit in minutes with these instant foods. Maybe you can even have an “Instant Halloween Party” with the items—that’s one party where the cooking certainly won’t be a hassle. Plus, All the noodle items will be priced at 180 yen (US$1.50), while the risotto will cost 220 yen ($1.83), so it’ll be easy on your wallet as well. To everyone trying the Nissin Halloween line-up this autumn, have a happy and haunted instant dining experience!

What it looks like when you order 100 slices of pork in your ramen bowl

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FoodBeast/RocketNews 24 (by Peter Pham):

P.K. from RocketNews24 is our hero. The reporter decided he wanted to tackle 100 slices of chashu in a single bowl of ramen, so that’s exactly what he ordered. Chashu, a fatty pork belly that’s braised until tender and served in slices, is a common topping for ramen.

Ramen chain Ishiyaki Ramen Kazan was holding a promotion where 30 slices of chashu could be added to your ramen. Typically, a regular ramen bowl only boasts 2-3 slices. Thirty slices of pork, however, wasn’t going to cut it for P.K.

The writer asked the restaurant to add an unheard of 100 slices.

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It cost about $85, Mashable reports.